Have you stopped to think about your digital footprint and how your heirs will sort things out?

We all have a digital footprint: your online banking, your blog, maybe you own a Website. You probably have iPhone and Amazon accounts. And how about Facebook, Twitter and all the social media accounts? What happens if you die or become incapacitated?

Have you ever stopped to think about all the automatic recurring charges for various services that you will no longer need, but yet they keep debiting your credit card or bank account? Do you have a plan in place telling people what to do and how to do it?

The biggest pain is the passwords. It is hard enough for you to keep up with all the changes, how do you think your family will be able to sort it all out? How many times have you been forced to change a site’s password? We’ve all gone through this: “Passwords must now be at least 8 characters long and must contain uppercase, lowercase, at least one number, and at least one non-numeric and non-alphabetic character.”

How about this: “Enter your favorite second grade teacher’s name before you can continue.” I recently got a message from American Express about a possible fraudulent charge. When I called them back, I needed to tell them my mother’s date of birth before they would talk to me. My mind went blank -I just couldn’t get the date right. I finally got through by giving them a lot of other personal information that nobody in my family could have guessed. By the way, it turned out to actually be a fraudulent charge that American Express had declined because of something suspicious about the transaction.

So, what is your digital estate plan?

Digital assets can include multimedia, copyrighted materials, frequent flyer miles and other reward programs. What about your photos, videos, and blogs that are online or in the cloud? Or maybe on a password protected flash drive or hard drive? How about e-books, movies, music, as well as social media accounts and content on sites like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook? These electronic assets can be valuable as well as important to your family. Without the proper precautions, they may disappear upon death. Louisiana has no digital estate regulations and social sites typically have their own rules. One of the worst things a person can do is to leave these matters unaddressed. At this point it is basically up to each provider as to whether a death certificate or power of attorney is adequate. In a few recent cases, providers have refused to allow access without a specific court order.

We include digital estate planning with every will or trust that we prepare for our clients. if the client does not keep digital assets in order then there is no record and no access —the executor may miss something, which could be lost forever.